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The Neuroscience of Happiness

neuroscience of happinessYou may have encountered a situation where you are sitting impatiently at the departing lounge of an airport, sighing in exasperation listening to the voice on the speakers saying that your flight will be two hours late. You may roll your eyes in frustration and get upset. Or you may try understanding the neuroscience of happiness and try to make the best out of a bad situation.

When confronted with an irritating situation, you may feel yourself being pulled in two directions. One route is filled with angry thoughts while the other is all about letting it go and be positive. Now, for most of us, such situations would result in some form of negativity. But the good news is that you can think your way out of this. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

Let’s try and understand the neuroscience of happiness to see if we can, in fact, tune out minds to be happy.

Mindset and Happiness 

Our brain is a complicated organ that comes with its own set of wiring and process. It is not easy to steer it into the opposite direction once it has started thinking in a particular direction. Often people are asked to rethink and re-examine situations on the go, rather than to listen to their hearts. This works to a limited degree, but you need to change your mind-set in the long term to be really happy.

It is believed that over the period of time, for better or for worse, our experiences shape our behaviors. But the neuroscience of your brain actually provides answers on how you can tune your thoughts to sustain positivity all the time.

The human brain contains spaces known as synapses. Whenever the brain gets a signal, a chemical shoots across one synapse to another, carrying information. This is quite similar to the sensation you experience when your nerve carries a stimulating current from your body to the brain as you start to ‘feel’.

This stimulating current is an electrical charge that manifests itself when the synapses start connecting with each other. As these synapses connect to each other regularly, the distances between them start shortening so that they may carry the message to the brain faster.

So basically, your brain is rewiring its circuit and evolving so that the chemical linkages that are more common reach the brain quicker. In other words, you can shape your brain through your ideas and thoughts. With every new thought, the brain starts wiring itself and adjusting itself. Frequent thought processes, in the end, start representing a person’s personality. Your intelligence, aptitude, skills, and happiness are all dependent on what you feed the brain on a consistent basis.

The linkages of mind activity and the physical brain provide us with a chance to change our mindsets. If we try to be happy, we will become happier. There will be more feelings of peace and comfort.

Physical Activity and Happiness

A person who is involved in physical activity is someone who is paying attention to his body. Such people are able to track their internal feelings more intimately, since the physical activity activates a part of the brain called the insula. The insula is a key brain component in the neuroscience of happiness. It is said that physical activity causes the insula to become thicker and more efficient. Meditation and yoga can also help in this respect.

A thicker insula is the outcome of connections of numerous neurons with each other. A thicker insula makes a person more aware of their own feelings and also makes them more empathic and kind towards other people. These neural circuits are crucial for building relationships and becoming happy. You should try and strengthen the insula and become more compassionate.

Memory and Happiness 

While you may be trying to help your brain get more in tune with itself, you are bound to come across a negative thought, a thought which is stronger than positivity. That’s where you can challenge yourselves. You can overcome these harmful elements by taking all the good you can find in any given situation, and developing a positive tilt in your nervous system.

Each one of us goes through bad experiences, like a flight getting delayed. The problem is that when you encounter a neutral or positive moment, the thought gets embedded in the standard memory system. But a bad experience is instantly registered, based on the negativity bias of the brain, and gets stored in the ‘implicit memory’.

However, you can tune your brain to store positive events in the ‘implicit memory’ by savoring them. You need to make it a point to remember the happy moments every once in a while, that too with intense longing. This should help the memory last longer. Your ability to sense a happy experience worth remembering will help align your brain to happy thoughts.

About Joseph Giove

Joseph R Giove is a MindBody Wellness Coach, biomedical engineer and clinical hypnotist. For over 30 years he has helped people in all areas of health and fitness including weight loss, exercise physiology, addiction, stress and anxiety, insomnia, depression, diabetes, nutrition, chronic pain, and more. He offers a unique understanding of the mind and body to help you renew, recover from illness, and live optimally with vitality and vigor.

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